[3]   Lincoln was absent from the legislature January 13 to 19 because of illness of a psychopathic nature, brought on in all probability by what he later would refer to as ``that fatal first of Jany. '41'' (letter to Joshua F. Speed, March 27, 1842; see also other letters to Speed written in 1841-1842). What occurred has been variously reported by Lincoln's contemporaries, but general agreement has been reached among modern scholars to the effect that on this date Lincoln askedPage  229

to be released from his engagement to Mary Todd. It is clear from his later references to the event and to his ensuing emotional chaos, that Lincoln underwent misery of no mild variety as the result, not merely of his own indecision and instability, but also of his awareness that he was the cause of an injury to Mary Todd no less severe and humiliating than his own. That his condition was common knowledge is indicated by several references in contemporary letters, among them the following, written on January 22, by Martin McKee to John J. Hardin: ``We have been very much distressed, on Mr. Lincoln's account; hearing that he had two Cat fits and a Duck fit since we left.'' (Hardin MSS., ICHi.)

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